Shape North America 2018 | Shaping Uncertainty: Learning to Lead with Ambiguity

Global Shapers Vancouver Hub
6 min readAug 23, 2018

This August, over 200 Global Shapers from across the United States, Canada, and Mexico, along with visiting Shapers from over 30 countries, attended the annual Shape North America (Shape NA) summit in Sacramento, California. A contingent of eight Vancouver Global Shapers, myself included, were also in attendance for an “anti-conference” that set us on a journey of learning and self-reflection, and into spaces of action, growth, and relationship building.

My name is Miguel A Rozo. I’m a TEDx speaker, social entrepreneur, and youth advocate with a background in policy and global affairs. My passion is to build communities, to empower others, and to promote a more sustainable and inclusive future for all. Since joining Global Shapers in 2016, the energy of this community has never ceased to amaze me. Not only has Global Shapers been transformative on a personal level, I have developed some of my closest friendships in this community. I have learned to be vulnerable while remaining incredibly optimistic about a brighter future because of the unmatched energy and innovation this community offers to their communities and our world.

I decided to attend my very first Shape event because of this undisputed belief in the community. What emerged from this “anti-conference” exceeded my expectations in so many ways, a sentiment that was echoed by Shapers from across North America and beyond.

We were called to “innovate, adapt, and create an environment of trust and accountability to enable… and harness [our] passion to create stronger communities.” We were called to shape the uncertainties of our times into opportunities and solutions for our communities.

For many of us this was our very first Shape NA. What unfolded over the course of only four days evoked strong emotions and a journey that for many of us became life changing. While many of us are still digesting and deconstructing this transformative experience, it would not be far-fetched to say that Shape NA 2018: Shaping Uncertainty and the Sacramento Global Shapers, have left a tremendous mark on the Global Shapers community and shaped the minds of many who aspire to make this a better world.

A Hero’s Journey

Cohort of Global Shapers attending ShapeNA 2018. Location: California State Capitol. P.C. Sedale Turbovsky

“Liminal events are… events which, through their happening, take participants from one state of being to another.” — George Benson

Shaper George Benson quickly highlighted the outcome from one of the building blocks of this year’s Shape NA: Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey.” This narrative sought to increase self-awareness, to take us out of our comfort zones, experiment with new ideas, deepen personal relationships, and ultimately transform each of us on a personal level.

Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey”

While this condensed summary does not encapsulate the Hero’s Journey in its entirety, the attention to detail in the programming by the Sacramento Global Shapers allowed us to undergo introspective journeys while fostering spaces to oscillate between personal growth and action-oriented sessions that touched on a wide-range of socio-economic and environmental themes.

What made these sessions particularly powerful is that they were largely led by Shapers. While there were exceptional and inspirational leaders that shared their stories with us, what made this “anti-conference” so unique was the careful attention to detail and the diversity of sessions that each of us could join. The seamless transition between group-led activities and theme-focused sessions was exceptional.

One of the many Shaper-led sessions throughout the summit

Embracing An Uncertain World

Throughout Shape NA, we were reminded, often times subtly, to embrace uncertainty and to channel that ambiguity into constructive and positive action. On a personal level, this resonated strongly given the uncertainty I am facing on a personal and professional level, a narrative that echoed for other Shapers and youth in contemporary times.

Vancouver Global Shapers at Shape NA 2018

We were reminded that although the challenges of our times are unprecedented, we are also at the cusp of changing times that can alter the state of our world dramatically. This holds true for many youth as we transition onto other stages of our lives. Embracing that uncertainty is key to achieving inclusive and long-lasting solutions for our communities. We were reminded that despite the challenges we face as a society and as individuals, we have an opportunity to rethink our society from the ground up, to innovate our cities, businesses, civic engagement, social inclusion among many others.

Exceptional Programming and Sacramento

Further to the journey of personal and collective growth, the Sacramento Global Shapers went above and beyond for us. From handwritten welcome cards, to the choose your own adventure after-event socials, our hosts “managed to make each and everyone of us feel loved and cared for” as Shaper Leah Bae best put it.

Thanks to the invaluable contributions by local partners and sponsors, we were treated in exceptional spaces for the duration of the summit. This included the California State Capitol, the Masonic Lodge, the Sacramento Kings Arena and the Urban Hive. Our hosts went to great lengths to arrange 22 “salon dinners” hosted by dynamic local leaders in their homes, businesses, and local restaurants.

One of the 22 incredible “salon dinners” Shapers were treated to in Sacramento

In my case, myself and eight other Shapers from the US, Canada, and Mexico were welcomed into the home of a Sacramento couple with an impressive track record in civic engagement, elected office, youth leadership, and education. We were treated to a BBQ dinner, thought-provoking conversations, and even got a chance to meet their lovely (and very hyper) golden retriever.

Many, myself included, have found it challenging to articulate our deepest sense of gratitude for the incredible lengths that our hosts took upon themselves to welcome us into their homes and their city. We would also like to take a moment to thank the Shape NA 2018 sponsors for their generous contributions and support.

Big thanks to our hosts, the Sacramento Global Shapers. P.C. Blake Williams

Next Steps: Building Inclusive, Resilient, and Action-Oriented Communities

Deepening relationships and fostering spaces to embrace the uncertainty of our times is crucial if we are to shape more resilient communities. Shape NA 2018 and the Sacramento Global Shapers excelled in creating spaces that empowered and harnessed individual passions, while helping to incubate a common sense of purpose that went beyond ourselves. I do not mean to hyperbolize when I say I feel changed and re-energized after attending this “anti-conference.” In very raw words, Shape NA 2018 has had a transformative effect on my persona and next steps as a young professional. I have learned to embrace uncertainty and to tackle it head on.

Our hosts achieved this by fostering spaces for deep journeys of introspection, trust-building and learning. I am of the opinion that our call to action is to propagate more of this love for one another and to empower others to harness their passions in a constructive way; to inspire and to be inspired on a daily basis; to realize, that life, is all about a journey of continuous learning, and that despite our imperfections as individuals and as a society, there is still much worth fighting for. The time to act and lead is now, to build more resilient, inclusive, and more sustainable communities, without forgetting the very raw core of who we are as humans and the importance of love and dedication to transform our world.

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Born out of the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Global Shapers Community is a network of 378 city-based hubs in 160 countries working on local and global issues